Every Friday, A.V. Club staffers kick off our weekly open thread for the discussion of gaming plans and recent gaming glories, but of course, the real action is down in the comments, where we invite you to answer our eternal question: What Are You Playing This Weekend?
Monster Hunter: World and Shadow Of The Colossus (2018)
As a fan of demanding, deliberate fights against hulking enemies and a hater of grinding, collecting, and crafting, I went into Monster Hunter: World with a bit of trepidation. But after a few hours and thanks to the game’s knack for steadily building up the danger and drama of its monster battles, I’ve officially joined the millions of people caught in its relentless, boney grasp. That may change as I get toward its latter half and have to start worrying about the more complicated concepts at the game’s periphery—I’m more of a “just hit the thing with your hammer” than “lure it into a devious trap” kind of guy—but for now, I’m mostly content to swing away at these fascinating beasts and slowly build up my hoard.
I say mostly because even though the game throws out a few reasons to justify your slaughter, I can’t help but feel bad for these creatures. Nature’s just taking its course and then here I am, the walking embodiment of humanity’s propensity for wanton destruction, crashing the scene with my little cat friend and a giant hammer. It would go against the game’s ruthless, capitalistic rhythm of progress at all costs, but I have to think the developers intended to make you feel just a little bit bad for killing these monsters. After all, when they get weak enough, even a fire-breathing T. rex will get scared of you and start limping and whimpering through the jungle, trying desperately to reach its home. The poor dumb critter doesn’t realize sleeping is by far the worst thing it could be doing at that moment. It just gives this shitty little scavenging human the chance to whack it as hard as it can or safely lay bombs around its head. Maybe that shame is the game’s way of pushing you toward capturing monsters instead of slaying them, a method that takes some practice and patience but ultimately gives you more material rewards. It’s the signature BioShock method of tricking efficiency-obsessed players into choosing empathy simply because, paradoxically, it pays better.
But clearly those ethical dilemmas aren’t enough for me because I’m doubling down on my guilt this weekend by sliding the remade Shadow Of The Colossus into my rotation. I’ve seen enough to think it’s a worthwhile reinterpretation that takes the original game’s austere beauty and blows it up into something staggeringly gorgeous, but I’ve yet to play enough to be convinced it’s a proper representation of Fumito Ueda’s masterwork. (Hopefully, that’ll come to the PlayStation 4 in a more direct fashion at some point. It seems only right.) Unlike Monster Hunter, though, Shadow Of The Colossus offers no moral shortcuts to escape the devastation you’re causing. Well, you could not play it, of course, but what kind of solution is that? [Matt Gerardi]
The Legend Of Zelda: Link’s Awakening
There are any number of reasons to hold up the first (and best) portable Zelda as the high-water mark for Link’s top-down adventures: the music, the dungeon designs, the strange humor and dark ambiguity of its dream-like plot. But playing through it recently (as I continue to hunt for games, new and old, to keep my 3DS obsession going in the handheld’s declining, post-Switch years), I realized that all of these were secondary. Link’s Awakening is the best 2-D Zelda game, and it’s solely because it allows you to perform that most basic of video game verbs: the jump.
“But William,” I hear you say, “You could jump in Zelda II.” Granted, but those jumps—confined, as they were, to the game’s sloppy side-scrolling sections—lacked the grace and precision of the leaps and bounds granted by the Roc’s Feather in Zelda’s first Game Boy outing. (It’s not for nothing that the Feather is the game’s very first treasure; the Link’s Awakening crew clearly knew what their killer app was going to be.) Useful in combat, handy for navigation, and just plain more fun than walking, the Feather was borderline-mandatory in my latest trip across Koholint Island, whether I was using it to rocket boost across gaps with the help of the Pegasus Boots, or bouncing off Goombas in the game’s pleasantly inventive platforming sections. That sense of high-flying freedom was so fulfilling that I’m almost hesitant to return to the other contender for best early Zelda title, A Link To The Past, lest the lack of verticality doom it to eternal second-fiddle status in my heart. [William Hughes]